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A First Army senior NCO who has logged more than 100,000 miles behind the wheel of military vehicles passed his knowledge onto some of First Army officers during driver training conducted here March 17.

Sgt. 1st Class John Martin, a graduate of the Army's 40-hour Master Driver course, oversaw the training, which prepared First Army personnel for executing part of their duties as Observer Coach/Trainers in various exercises.

"This is (High Mobility Multi Wheeled Vehicle) refresher training, getting personnel trained so they can do guest O C/T missions and carry on with the training of National Guard and Reserve Soldiers," Martin said.

"This if for anybody who is eligible to go on an Observer Coach/Trainer. We like to have them fully trained, so they can fall in on whatever vehicles are available to them when they get there. We get them used to driving the HMMWV again because some of them have not driven a HMMWV in two to

three years. We want to get them used to the operation of it and be able to come home safely."

Martin noted that it all starts with thorough Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services. "You have to know what to look for when you fall in on a vehicle, because you never know what shape the vehicle is going to be in when you get it," he said. "Proper PMCS keeps the vehicle fully mission capable and is a big safety concern. You don't want anything to happen when you're out in the middle of the National Training Center not be able to get back without wrecker service. The big thing on the PMCS side are the boots on the CV joints because even a small tear will deadline a vehicle."

Another key training factor is learning to handle the HMMWV. "They learn proper spacing and the importance of understanding where the vehicle is in relation to the terrain around you. You don't want the wheels to drop off into a culvert alongside the road. You need to be able to identify hazards and be able to move over the terrain safely," Martin said.

He also cited brakes as one area that many drivers have to get used to. "The brakes are really touchy. Everybody thinks you need to stomp on them. If you do that, you're going to hit the windshield," Martin said. "Another factor that takes some getting used to is the mass of the vehicle. It impacts how long it takes to slow down, especially when you're negotiating corners of steep terrain. It has a center of gravity that is above most civilian vehicles, so you really have to be careful."

One of the students, Capt. Jacob Veldhouse of G3 Training, called the training "definitely a good refresher course. The instructors were thorough and knowledgeable."

The course consisted of PCMS, daytime driving, and nighttime driving, the latter done using Night Vision Goggles. Veldhouse described the nighttime portion as challenging, but also a learning experience. "It's definitely harder to drive at night," he said. "It's hard to get accustomed to the depth perception. You only have a monocle and it only covers one eye, and if it's still light a little bit you get double vision."

Capt. Benjamin Ritzema, also of G3 training, agreed that the nighttime portion posed some difficulties. "Driving at night is always a challenge," he said. "Your depth perception is thrown way off with night-vision devices. It was good training, to remind you how difficult it can be, and remember that slower is a little better at night."

It was all part of a good day's training, Ritzema added. "It had been about a year since I had been in a HMMWV. I learned some things about PMCS that I didn't know before and the instructors were great. They were very professional."

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